What has happened to Inland Revenue standards?

Published on 10 February 2004

The Revenue have failed to follow their own Charter for taxpayers and the Government’s Modernising agenda by not publishing targets for standards of customer service for 2003/04. LITRG want the Revenue to tell customers what they can expect for 2004/05 before 6 April this year.

The importance of published targets

LITRG have sought over the years to clarify what targets are being set for the Revenue by themselves or by government. When things go wrong and people feel the need to complain it is helpful for them to see the standards against which their own treatment can be measured.

LITRG also want to see whether the claims to be an “enabling” organisation can be supported by evidence of continuous customer improvement.

The obligation to publish targets is set out in the Revenue’s Charter and other literature (leaflets IR167 and CSS1). These tell us that the publication of targets “is an essential element of our Charters and the Government’s Modernising agenda” . The Revenue go on to explain that they “publish in detail the standards of service that our customers can expect from us”.

Targets for 2003/04

We set out to find the published targets for the current year (2003/04) on either the Revenue’s website or by a visit to a Tax Enquiry Office – but our search drew a blank.

The last targets published were back in September 2002 (CSS1). Even the Board’s Annual Report for 2003 (published in December 2003), in the pages devoted to targets and achievements, says little that is meaningful about day to day targets for 2003/04 that might be of interest to the ordinary taxpayer.

Was it Revenue apprehension due to the introduction of tax credits that has meant the demise of published targets for 2003/04? Across most published measures of routine operation the Revenue’s performance between 2000/01 and 2002/03 had been declining. Was 2003/04 expected to continue that trend? How can the failure to publish be reconciled with promises made under their Charter?

The future

Whatever the reasons for the failure of targets appearing for 2003/04, LITRG would like to see all customer improvement targets published before the start of the year in question (so for 2004/05 before 6 April 2004). We would also like those targets to be more comprehensive and informative.

A press release issued just before the start of the tax year would be a more effective way of publicising important targets than a leaflet issued six months into the tax year (as was done in 2002/03).

(10-02-2004)

Contact Name: John Andrews (Tel: 0844 579 6700, Fax: 0844 579 6701)